Victoria has recorded 35 new coronavirus cases and seven deaths, as Melbourne takes its first tentative steps out of lockdown.
Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Monday the state’s latest victims include one man aged in his 70s, one man and one woman in their 80s and three men and one woman in their 90s.
It brings the state’s death toll from the virus to 729 and the national figure to 816.
The deaths are all linked to outbreaks in aged care facilities, where 513 cases remain active.
It’s the lowest number of new cases since June 26, when the state recorded 30 infections.
“We have gone from 725 cases to now down into the 30s. That is a mighty effort,” Mr Andrews said.
“It is something every Victorian, regardless of whether you’re in the regions, the suburbs or the centre of Melbourne, everyone is playing their part and should be proud and pleased to see that the trend is with us. The numbers continue to come down.”
The premier said there were no new cases in regional Victoria, which moved into a new stage of eased restrictions on Monday.
Up to five people in the regions are now able to gather in outdoor places from a maximum of two households.
The five-person limit will also apply for religious services that can resume in regional Victoria if they’re held outdoors with a faith leader.
Authorities are hopeful regional areas could jump two steps out of lockdown by mid-next week, allowing residents to go out for a coffee or meal.
From Monday, Melburnians will also get some further freedoms.
Those living alone or single parents will be allowed to have one other visitor as part of a “social bubble”, while outdoor exercise is extended to two hours split over a maximum of two sessions, allowing social interaction with one other person or household members.
Playgrounds and outdoor fitness equipment will reopen and the nightly curfew will start an hour later at 9pm before finishing at 5am.
The 14-day case average for Melbourne sits at 54.4, inching closer to the sub-50 target.
Melbourne will move to the “second step”, including increased limits for public gatherings and a staged return to school for some students, from September 28 if the average falls to 30-50.
The Labor government on Sunday announced a $3 billion suite of cash grants, payroll tax deferrals and fee waivers, described by Premier Daniel Andrews as “the biggest package of business support in the history of this state”.
There will be payroll tax deferrals for up to 12 months for businesses with payroll of up to $10 million a year, coming at a cost of some $1.7 billion to the state.
Business groups welcomed the support but renewed calls for the government to reopen the state as soon as possible.
Tensions remained high in parts of Melbourne on Sunday, with more than 70 people arrested as anti-lockdown protesters gathered at the Queen Victoria Market, with some throwing fruit at police after raiding market stalls.
There are 122 Victorians in hospital with coronavirus, including 12 in intensive care.